Storm Franklin: will your insurance cover damage and how do you claim?
First came Storm Dudley, battering Northern Ireland, northern England and southern Scotland. Storm Eunice swiftly followed on Friday, with wind speeds of up to 122mph, causing further destruction.
Then, Storm Franklin rolled in overnight on Sunday, causing heavy rain and flooding. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes, and more than 150 flood warnings remained in place on Monday in the north of England, with Yorkshire and Manchester among the worst hit.
What happens if the extreme weather damages your property?
Will my insurance cover storm damage?
Buildings insurance policies usually state that they will cover financial loss caused by storm damage.
Kelly Whittington, the property and speciality lines claims director at Aviva, said: “Currently, claims mainly relate to missing roof tiles and broken windows. However, we are seeing some more devastating cases such as fallen chimney stacks and trees falling on homes or vehicles.
“We have field teams across the UK and they will be concentrating on the worst-affected areas. These teams will be visiting our customers to assist them with their claims over the coming days.”
A spokesperson for Direct Line said the company has “significantly increased capacity” on its phone lines to deal with an “understandably high volume of inquiries”.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that firms would be prioritising their vulnerable and elderly customers first when dealing with claims.
However, companies have been known to argue over what constitutes a storm.
Last year Guardian Money dealt with a case where an insurer refused to pay to repair a leaking roof damaged during Storm Christoph. The Financial Ombudsman Service says these type of disputes are among the main complaints it gets about unpaid storm damage claims.
The ABI says a storm is a period of violent weather defined as:
Your insurer may have this definition in its policy or may apply its own rules. If the weather in your area does not meet the criteria, it will turn down your claim.
How do I claim?
As soon as you can, you need to tell your insurer that your property has been damaged and you want to make a claim. Most insurers have 24-hour helplines and they should be geared up to deal with the fallout from the storm, as forecasters have been talking about it for days.
Take photos and keep anything you can in case you need to show the insurer evidence to back up your claim.
Speak to the insurer before arranging urgent repairs or somewhere to stay.
It may have emergency repair teams to send out but, if not, your policy may cover getting the work done. Tell your insurer that this work needs doing, and make sure you get receipts to submit as you may be able to get the money back from your policy.
When it is safe to, inspect your property properly and make a list of all of the damage. Take photos and keep anything you can in case you need to show the insurer evidence to back up your claim.
What will be covered?
This will depend on your policy. If you have buildings cover, this will pay out for damage to your home – it will cover the cost of replacing items and getting things fixed.
It is also likely to cover accommodation costs if you are unable to stay in your property because of the damage. How much it will pay out will depend on the level of cover you have bought, and what excess you chose – this is the sum you pay towards any work. What cover it offers for things such as garden sheds will depend on the individual policy.
Your possessions will be covered by contents insurance. You may have included garden furniture and bikes on this policy – if you haven’t, then you won’t be able to claim if these are damaged.
How about power cuts?
Contents cover often offers the option to protect everything in your freezer – if you bought this type of cover and have a power cut, remember to photograph and tot up the cost of everything you have to throw out.
You may also be entitled to compensation if your electricity supply goes off.
According to Ofgem, what you can claim depends on the following factors:
Your local network company that maintains supply on the grid is responsible for fixing power cuts and responding to compensation claims.
When you can claim relies on how Ofgem categorises storms in severe weather. You are entitled to £70 as a non-domestic or domestic customer if your power goes off for 24 hours under storm category 1, or 48 hours under storm category 2.
You can receive a further £70 for each additional 12 hours of being cut off from your supply, up to a total of £700.
You will need to contact your energy supplier if you have been cut off for other reasons – such as a faulty energy meter.
If you experience a power cut, call 105 for free to be put through to your local network operator for further help and advice.
What about my car?
If your car is hit by a tree or debris blowing around, it will be covered if you have a comprehensive insurance policy – as most drivers do. A third-party policy will not cover storm damage.
The insurer Zurich says during November’s Storm Arwen claims for this type of damage increased by 17%. However, it said storm-related claims were more often for crashes – during Arwen claims for road traffic accidents were up by 35%. So if you are leaving the house, drive carefully.
What if part of my house damages someone else’s property?
If your neighbour’s car is damaged by tiles falling from your roof you may be liable – but they will have to show that you are at fault. If your roof was already in a bad state of repair they may be able to claim against you. The legal liability element of your home insurance should cover this.